Taco Bell: What’s In the Beef?

You have to give Taco Bell some credit. The restaurant chain did not become unbunned…er, undone by charges that it’s beef isn’t all up to par. Instead, Taco Bell was proactive in responding with a detailed statement on exactly what its beef contains:

However, I think the communications team made a mistake with this: exactly what are these “other ingredients” (last bullet) they mention? Seems to me that being “almost” transparent just as bad a not being transparent at all. It just begs more questions. What do you think?

–Scott Van Camp

Take the Good With the Bad Online

This week I had an interesting and intense conversation with someone who was thrown into social media due to a terrible circumstance, and who has experienced both the good and the bad of interacting with people online. Dan Harrington and his family live in Virginia, and in October of 2009 his 20-year-old daughter Morgan disappeared after attending a Metallica concert. To rally the community for leads and search volunteers, a comprehensive digital network was set up—with the help of Levick Strategic Communications—which included a Web site, blog, Facebook and Twitter. Harrington and his wife Gil would blog their thoughts daily, and the outpouring of support was massive: 660,000 people visited the site in the first few weeks of the launch.

Because of numbers like that, Harrington is pretty bullish on social media, but he also told me about the darker side: people who seemed “psychotic,” posting crazy comments about conspiracy theories and such. Upon Googling “Morgan Harrington” I came across quite a few of what I’d say were inappropriate, ugly comments around the case. A few weeks ago I asked the question on our Facebook page if the Internet was responsible for the tragedy in Tucson. Most came to the Web’s defense. After listening to Dan Harrington, I’d have to agree—but you must take the good with the bad.

Look for the case study next week in PR News.

–Scott Van Camp

Be Gone, Catchphrases!

Right now I have the same feeling as when my wife catches me foraging for food after 10 p.m.: busted. What gives me this feeling is a new study that reveals the most overused catchphrases among advertising and marketing pros. Well, you can add “editor of a public relations weekly” to that sentence.

Here’s the top 10 catchphrases, according to the survey by The Creative Group:

  1. “Social media/social networking”
  2. “Synergy”
  3. “Free”
  4. “Innovative/innovation”
  5. “ROI/return on investment”
  6. “Extra value/value added”
  7. “Model(s)”
  8. “Telemarketing”
  9. “Social media expert”
  10. “Resolve”

I’m guilty of using at least five of these phrases on a regular basis in PR News. Social media, ROI, synergy, innovative, social media expert—all key components of my writing arsenal. I mean, isn’t PR really social media? Well, I’m going to tape this list up on my computer and do my darndest to keep from using them in the future. Wish me luck.

–Scott Van Camp

Shaking up the Press Release, will Like, Get You Xtra Attention

Whether you’re a Groupon junkie, a Groupon partner/advertiser or just watching this company rake in the dough, you have to admire the press release it sent on Monday announcing that it secured a $950 million round of financing. The headline reads: “Groupon Raises, Like, A Billion Dollars”. My mother and many an English teacher have admonished me for using the word “like” in my sentences or conversations.   But now, with press releases being so pedestrian for the most part, the injection of “like” in the headline gets a company even more attention and may even, like, bring back this word to an accepted place in conversation and grammar.

The fact that Groupon raised almost a billion dollars is news enough.  Creating a snarky headline gets the attention of even more people, many of whom will inevitably sign up for the daily deals that have made Groupon’s valuation skyrocket.  Brilliant, I say.  However, the rest of the press release is routine and borderline mundane. Now that they’ve got the headline style down, Groupon’s press release writers need to come up with some novel way to keep us reading til the end.

Do you have a well-written press release you’d like to share?  One that stirs the mind, rattles the boat and gets the media to cover you? Please share it with us, like, when you get a chance.

- Diane Schwartz

Twitter-izing Customer Service

As I struggle to determine why my first Verizon Fios bill was $50 more than what I was quoted over the phone, I wanted to mention an interview this week that I had with Twitter/customer service guru extraordinaire Frank Eliason. Famous for his Twitter exploits at Comcast, Frank has taken his talents to Citigroup, where he’s the new SVP for social media, and revamping the company’s customer service function. When I asked him whether financial regulations have limited his social media efforts so far, Frank was undaunted. “The first key step was partnering internally with compliance and legal to go over all of these things,” he says. “We asked ourselves how we could make customer service better while meeting regulations.” You can read more from Frank in my article on customer care and social media in the 1/17/2011 issue of PR News. And unfortunately, Frank didn’t have an “in” with Verizon.

–Scott Van Camp

PRiorities for PR Professionals: The ’11 Edition

Most people are happy to see 2010 behind them, from a business standpoint and in many ways from a personal standpoint. Everyone knows someone who’s unemployed, under-employed, “upside down” with their mortgage or just feeling like moving on to a new year, new possibilities and priorities. For the PR trade, it wasn’t such a bad year, was it? Here at PR News, we observed the confidence level in the power of PR rising significantly. Perhaps it’s a function of necessity since ad and marketing spending usually skews higher than PR spend. But I see it more as a realigning of priorities within organizations, putting PR first when it comes to reputation management, crisis planning, branding, employee morale and productivity, and even product sales.  More PR professionals are sitting comfortably in the social media driver’s seat and others are riding shotgun but starting to get it – understanding that having Facebook fans or tweeting  twice a day is not enough (and sometimes not necessary).  Most PR pros have had the epiphany that social media is a tool,  not The Strategy.  And there are other tools we need to dust off this year – face to face communication, customer service,  reading to learn, picking up the phone and talking to reporters and other stakeholders. To name a few.  And measurement – it never goes away, it just gets better.  No one in PR these days will dare say they don’t measure their PR efforts. It’s like a doctor admitting he doesn’t read the results of a patient’s blood work or a school principal ignoring student grades. The challenge for 2011 is doing something smart and bold with the research and analytics you fight so hard for in your budget each year.  Metrics are easy to come by these days – what you do with the results will separate the masters from the amateurs.  The more masters we have in our industry, the more powerful PR will be.

– Diane Schwartz

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